Have you ever met one of those people who always seem to have unrealistically high expectations from you? Their expectations from you maybe selfish – like for you to always be available at their beck and call to do whatever they ask – or it can be “in your best interest” – the kind of expectations really “driven” parents have for their children’s future.
Well, I know of at least one such person. And I can tell you: sometimes, that person can be a real pain-in-the-ass. Do you wanna know who that person is? Well…it’s me.
I know I can have very high expectations sometimes. Mostly from those who are closest to me. Of course, when they are consistently so high, expectations are not always met. And obviously, when that happens, I get hurt and angry.
Moreover, if expectations are not met once, they increase even more in subsequent interactions because I was “failed” the last time, and this time it should be better – an “extra effort” is expected to “make up” for the last time.
I’ve known for quite a while that I tend to get into this cycle. What I didn’t know was how to get out of the cycle. But now, I think I may have found a way out.
Earlier, I used to think: If I asked some person X to do something for me, then it is X’s responsibility to do said thing for me. If he fails to do his “duty”, he should have valid “justification” for why he couldn’t do it.
Recently, I had the same experience again – expectations were high, they were not met, I was hurt. But this time, a question just popped up in my head – What have I done to deserve the kind of treatment I’m expecting from them? Why should someone do something that I ask them to do? In other words:
What am I entitled to?
I believe learning and discovering is a process of asking the right questions. Empowered with the above question, I realized that the answer was simple – I was entitled to nothing (in that particular situation at least). Extrapolating to other past experiences, I also realized that on most occasions, my expectations have been unfounded.
Now I understand that for most of you reading this, it must seem like a very obvious fact – you don’t expect something from someone if you don’t do anything in return for them. For you guys, there’s probably nothing to “realize” here – it must appear just a very basic fact of nature itself that applies everywhere, in every sphere.
But it wasn’t for me. In a practical, “business” environment, sure, that’s what I’d expect. But I didn’t make that connection in other environments and relationships. I guess you could say that I was taking some things for granted. I don’t know what else to tell you “enlightened” guys, except that you are better human beings than me. As I said before, I can be a real jerk sometimes. 😐
It seems like one of those things where, once you see the truth, you can’t un-see it, and can’t also believe how you didn’t see it before.
Back to expectations: I think they are a major cause of everyday stress and anger in our lives. The more we have, the deeper they cut, when they are not met. But that’s not the only way they impact us:
People can hurt us in two ways – by doing things we don’t expect, and by not doing things we do expect.
To avoid getting hurt in either case, we have to change our own outlook, our own expectations. I’d like to talk about “things done that were not expected” in another post, as that seems an interesting concept in itself to go digging about, and deserves it’s own space and time.
For the latter case, however, I think we can minimize the impact by asking ourselves this question in the first place: “What am I entitled to?”
And the answer to that, I think, is this:
I am entitled only to the results of my actions.
It seems fair to think that, right? What else can I be entitled to? Of course, if you are royalty, then you might be entitled to a little more. But for the average human being, it appears that he should get what he’s due by virtue of his actions.
I’d also like to add “intentions” to the list (as in “I am entitled to the results of my intentions, and actions in light of those intentions”). But since, practically, intentions can not be judged as clearly as actions, and since the two are many-a-times not in sync with each other, I’d say if I have to pick one of the two as the source of my entitlements, it’d have to be “actions”, for the sake of practicality alone. (More on “actions vs intentions” in another post, another time).
Note that earlier, I said we can minimize the effect that others’ actions have on us by keeping our expectations in check, by carefully evaluating if they are justified or not. We may not totally get rid of those effects however.
On many occasions, our expectations will be justified, and others will still hurt us. That is life. We’ll simply have to find other ways to deal with these situations. But, by keeping our expectations just, we’ll definitely stave off a lot of unwanted hurt and anger.
This realization is still new to me. I’m still evaluating this strategy and its effects. Still working on always keeping this at the back of my mind as I go about my daily life. On most days, I can’t. But sometimes, I can. It’s a work in progress. And hopefully, as was the goal with this blog, writing about it will help strengthen that.